While I wouldn’t say that I’ve encountered any moments of inspiration or enlightenment during my daily walks among the bleak Fenland fields, I would say that they have been very good for the soul.
Very rarely do I get opportunities like this to escape from the hustle and bustle of my normal life. It’s a refreshing change simply to walk along the narrow, rutted country lanes with the cold wind blowing hard against my face and simply “be”. My mind feels rested and receptive to new thoughts and ideas. Answers to questions that have been plaguing me for ages are beginning to take shape.
In the Daodejing, Laozi advocates a return to a state of “oneness” with nature in order to restore harmony and tranquility to humanity. Although I certainly wouldn’t want to ditch the conveniences of modern life, I do find myself experiencing a growing need to find pockets of silence away from the constant flood of noise and distractions that inundates my head from online in order to calm my emotions and still my mind.
The challenge, of course, is finding a way to integrate such pockets into my daily routine rather than “bingeing” on them on the rare occasions that I find time to get out in the countryside. Although Laozi often refers to the need to achieve such a state of flow when he talks about effortless action (無為/wúwéi), he provides precious little practical advice on how to go about achieving it, beyond some vague references to meditation and breathing.
With his emphasis on the importance of following ritual (禮/lǐ), I find Confucius a lot more helpful in this regard. The best way to inculcate a new habit is to build up such a strong “muscle memory” of the action through constant repetition and practice that you barely notice you are even doing it.
I’m still a long way from achieving such a state, but at least I now have a methodology to build on. Time to put in the hard yards that will be required to make the creation of pockets of silence an integral part of my life.